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Arts & Culture

'Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State'

Tampa-born journalist T.D. Allman paints an unflattering but entertaining portrait of Florida

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For example, greater Orlando in a nutshell: "Fell that pine barren; build a theme park; construct your gated community. Then watch as the sinkholes swallow up your Florida fantasy, an alligator devours your fox terrier, and the palmetto bugs – Floridaese for giant cockroaches – infest your life. … Disney World today is but one nodule of an immense glob-like conurbation of theme parks and trailer parks, gated communities and broken-window slums where vast cookie-cutter suburbs are interspersed with corporate-logo skyscrapers."

Or Tampa: "In one of the more exotic examples of Florida hybridization, the Ku Klux Klan made common cause with the Mafiosi, dominated by the notorious Trafficante crime family. Tampa's Anglo elite used them both to break unions, terrorize blacks, keep the cigar workers in Ybor City in line – and limit Tampa's possibilities."

Or Jacksonville: "Into the civil rights era Jacksonville clung to the notion that you got rich ripping things out of Florida (notably timber products and phosphate) and stayed rich by keeping your white as well as your black workforce poor, unskilled, cheap and powerless."

Of course, apart from his distinctive spin, much of this will be old news to Central Florida readers and history buffs, who are more than familiar with the story of Disney's secret land acquisition for the parks, Jack Kerouac's writing Dharma Bums in College Park and the Challenger disaster. Still, for a while at least – maybe for a long while – this is the way America and the world is going to see us. So get used to it.

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